What is the best way to lose stomach fat?

Your question is a good one. Many of my patients ask me this question and I sincerely wish I had an easy answer for them. Losing weight/belly fat can be challenging. We lose lean body mass as we get older. Loss of muscle mass decreases our metabolism (the rate at which your body uses calories) and this can make it very challenging to maintain a healthy weight. Hormones also pose a challenge when trying to slim down your waistline. Post-menopausal women tend to gain weight around their stomach because they have a decreasing level of estrogen, which appears to influence where fat is distributed in the body. Please know this fact upsets SO many of my female patients! Another trouble with belly fat is that it’s not limited to the extra layer of padding located just below the skin (subcutaneous fat). It also includes visceral fat — which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs. Having an increased amount of visceral fat increases risk of many diseases including: cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Losing unwanted belly fat may not be easy, but it is certainly not impossible. Incorporating a healthy diet, in addition to getting adequate physical activity, is the best way to manage weight and fight an unwanted “apple” shape. I consistently tell my patients that there are not sustainable “fast” fixes to losing belly weight. I urge them to stay away from fad diets and exercise plans that claim to help them lose all the stomach weight overnight. Generally, fad diets or targeted exercise plans do not lead to long term results. The journey towards reducing one’s midsection is one that takes time, planning, and patience.

Consuming a diet that is balanced and well-rounded is the first step towards whittling your waistline. Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help you shed unwanted pounds. Having excess weight around your midsection creates an inflammatory environment. One of the best ways to curb inflammation and belly fat is to make sure your diet is packed with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. First, I encourage you to take a close look at your current eating style. Investigate areas that you could improve your diet/lifestyle. If you find that you generally skip breakfast and then grab fast food for lunch, make some changes on the weekend. Breakfast can be pre-made the night before. One option is overnight oats. Take a few small mason jars and add: oats, milk, a drizzle of honey, sliced bananas and a tablespoon of powdered peanut butter and combine. These prepared breakfasts travel well and are delicious and filling. You can also assemble a veggie/egg frittata for the week ahead. Combine eggs, milk, feta cheese, sliced red bell pepper, red onion and spinach together and bake. Slice the frittata up and place in individual Tupperware containers and you have breakfast on the go! Pre-made lunches could be as easy as combining spinach, tomatoes, carrots, garbanzo beans, shredded cheese and avocado. I make a few of these salads in advance and keep my salad dressing in the office refrigerator. I will also utilize leftovers for lunch! Cube up leftover chicken breast and combine with sliced grapes and celery, dill, and light mayonnaise. Add the mixture to a low calorie whole grain wrap, and a healthy lunch is served!

The next step to shedding unwanted abdominal weight is exercise. Many of my patients ask me if sit ups will help them lose belly fat, but sit ups alone are not the answer. As mentioned before, whittling the waistline requires a healthy diet and adequate cardiovascular activity along with strength training. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week (approximately 30 minutes per day, five days per week) for adults older than 18, and include at least two days of resistance/strength training. Whenever I bring up the need for exercise, my patients consistently say “I just don’t have time to exercise.” I completely understand that the hours in the day available for exercise are limited. Given the many health risks that having a large belly brings, I strongly encourage my patients to “make an appointment with exercise.” Try to think of scheduling exercise into your day as you would an important appointment with your boss or your doctor. That appointment would be important and you wouldn’t likely skip it. Then figure out what time of day works best for exercise. Many studies show that people who exercise in the morning are generally more consistent than after work gym-goers. Finally, find some type of movement that you like! Try a local dance class or do laps in the gym pool or hop on a bike and go! Don’t forget to do resistance training with weights and be sure to get some core work in as well.

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